Contending with God

Last Updated on November 6, 2022 by GMC

26th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)

Job 9:1-12, 14-16; Psalm 88; Luke 9:57-62

Daily I call upon you, O LORD;
to you I stretch out my hands…
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face? (Psalm 88:10, 15)

Is God “just”? Job, like the Psalmist, struggled against a God who seemed indifferent to his suffering. Stricken with a skin disease and dispossessed of everything, his friends offered no consolation but only accusation. 

“Reflect now, what innocent person perishes? Where are the upright destroyed?” counseled Eliphaz (Job 4:7).

Bildad also took the side of God against Job and his children: 

“If your children have sinned against him 
and he has left them in the grip of their guilt, 
Still, if you yourself have recourse to God 
and make supplication to the Almighty, 
Should you be blameless and upright, 
surely now he will rouse himself for you 
and restore your rightful home.” (Job 8:4-6)

You deserve it, Job, his friends said. Search your heart and confess your sin, and the Lord will restore your fortunes. God’s justice is an inflexible principle and everyone gets what they deserve. An airtight theological argument?

Job refused to accept it.

It is all one! therefore I say:
Both the innocent and the wicked he destroys. (Job 9:22)

A just God? Not!

When the scourge slays suddenly,
he scoffs at the despair of the innocent. (Job 9:23)

Who, but God, permits evil?

The earth is given into the hands of the wicked;
he covers the faces of its judges.
If it is not he, who then is it? (Job 9:24)

Job held God accountable for his miserable plight and freely gave vent to his complaints. But who can argue against the Almighty and prevail? Job felt powerless.

Job answered his friends and said: I know well that it is so;
but how can a man be justified before God?
Should one wish to contend with him,
he could not answer him once in a thousand times.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength;
who has withstood him and remained unscathed?

He removes the mountains before they know it;
he overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth out of its place,
and the pillars beneath it tremble.
He commands the sun, and it rises not;
he seals up the stars.

He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads upon the crests of the sea.
He made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
marvelous things beyond reckoning.

Should he come near me, I see him not;
should he pass by, I am not aware of him;
Should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay?
Who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 

How much less shall I give him any answer,
or choose out arguments against him!
Even though I were right, I could not answer him,
but should rather beg for what was due me.
If I appealed to him and he answered my call,
I could not believe that he would hearken to my words. (Job 9:1-12, 14-16)

Job’s God cannot be cut down to size and slotted into some architectonic system of theology.  Incomprehensible evil and suffering detonate all conceivable systems.

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence” (Paul Claudel).

Jesus flowed like water to the lowest places of the earth to fill them with his presence. Even a criminal on a cross identified with him. 

“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, 
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Luke 9:58)

Job eventually learned to love and trust the Giver of all good gifts without the gifts. He was dispossessed against his will to struggle to that spiritual depth. 

Jesus calls his disciples to a voluntary dispossession of any competing goods with the supreme good of the Kingdom of God. 

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

One Reply to “Contending with God”

  1. When God calls us to suffer he bestows upon us, whether we realize or not, His presence with us. He never leaves us alone. When we turn our mind and heart to Him, possessions don’t matter and we appreciate the gift before us, God Himself. Thank God for your posts and the way He inspires you to touch our hearts and minds. You are doing God’s work. May God bless you and fill you with joy.

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